12 Environmentalism has Failed

I had the distinct privileged of being in the audience of the George Stroumboulopoulos show this week where David Suzuki was a guest. He has always been an idol of mine. Someone who has spoken his mind from an educated stance and whose passion oozes from every fibre of his being. Some people grow up wanting to be like Wayne Gretzky but not me...I wanted to be like David Suzuki. Imagine my surprise when only a few minutes into his interview David said 'Environmentalism has Failed'. That we haven't really gotten anywhere since the movement was born 50 years ago and that in some cases we have taken massive steps back. As he explained I found myself nodding in agreement. David talked about how environmentalism has been two extremes with us on one side and corporations and governments on the other. There has been very little middle ground and very little coming together to find a solution.

Source - Strombo

I'm not like other environmentalists and I have known this for a long time. I started out my career working in the environmental department of the worlds largest chemical company. Some people believed (and told me) I sold my soul when I accepted that job.  I preferred to look at it as I was affecting change from within. I have never been an US vs THEM environmentalist (except with Monsanto...because they are beyond reason). I have never believed that the best way to improve the environment or reduce our impact is by ganging up on companies or people. We live in a world where some environmentalists are considered eco-terrorists taking extreme measures to make a point. We live in a world where environmentalists see things as black and white. There is no common ground because that would mean working with a company that perhaps isn't the greenest. Now I see it this as the golden opportunity. I don't want to get rid of all the big companies who currently don't have the greenest practices. I want environmentalists to help them to be better. I want environmentalist to share their expertise, their knowledge, their passion with these companies to make this world a better place. 

I believe environmentalists should protest and stand up for ourselves and this planet. But I don't think this should be the only thing we do or even where we spend the bulk of our energy.  I think we need to be smart about where we take the environmental movement over the next 50 years. We need to make it so the future David Suzuki's of the world don't utter to words 'Environmentalism has Failed'.

What do you think of David's comment? Have we failed those who started this movement?

I will link up to the episode when it is online and I will post the date when it will air on Facebook when I get it.  Video can be seen here.

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  1. I don't think we have failed yet, but are making very very slow progress in this direction. I believe it would take a catastrophic event to propel us towards success quicker.

  2. I think you are right Katie. It is going to take something massive to make people wake up. David talked about Japan and how they are at a cross roads with their energy solutions and how without the earthquake they never would have even thought about switching from nuclear power to harnessing the power from their hot springs.

  3. Ditto Katie... don't think we have failed, but we still have so very very far to go. I definitely agree with you though, same as any other "divide" it has to stop being an us vs. them mentality, and start being a how can we all work together to create common goals.

  4. Very interesting! I don't think we have failed, but I don't think we're progressing quickly enough either. I do believe every green effort counts, and I'm always encouraged when green living seems to become more mainstream in some way. I choose to focus on that b/c it helps me to stay positive.

  5. I think we need all kinds of approaches... those working with corporations from the inside as well as those agitators on the outside. It there weren't people on the outside shining a light on corporate practices, companies wouldn't have any motivation to create an environmental department in the first place, right?

  6. Yep. It has failed.

    If society is going to change to a new, sustainable mode of behaviour, it isn't going to do it with current modes of green thought leading the way.
    They don't work, because they are no aspirational for the majority, require intellectual and physical labour, and mostly require change and diligence, and the collapse of incumbent consumerist systems.

    So yeah, not going to happen. Big failure on the green part of things. A big rethink is needed.

    When you have people like my parents who are coming to housesit at my farm yet are too lazy to go into the henhouse every day to collect the eggs (so I'm having to employ someone to do that while I'm away and feed the hens), that tells me just how lazy people are, and how doomed the environmental movement is.

  7. @Beth - I agree with you that for some companies the external pressures force them to change their practices and create opportunities for those to work from within.

    I do think that for some companies there are other motivators to creating environmental departments. Sometimes it is to get an edge over competitors, sometimes it is because they want to do the right thing and other times it is because of regulations (the biggest reason they are created).

  8. @Meegs - I sometimes wonder if common goals is even possible with some companies (like Monsanto). Those are the companies that scare me the most and make me think that it would be impossible to change their practices.

  9. @Leanne - I almost feel like we made progress but then lately have taken steps back. People aren't voting for the environment so those elected are not making it a priority.

    I agree that people are lazy and since being green is not easy they turn a blind eye to it.

  10. @Charise - I like to think that every little bit of effort helps and that we can all make a difference!

  11. Environmentalism hasn't failed, rather we have failed it. It is the everyday people that need to be concerned more about the future of nature, rather than being concerned only about their next paycheck and where they can buy something on sale. Everybody can do something to reduce waste, eat local, eat organic, eat healthy - yet the harsh reality is that most of us choose not to. It is our collective faults, coupled with endless buying splurges and dishonest corporations and small companies that we have this mess we are in. What we all need is a little more intuition and the chance to reconnect with nature. It won't solve all problems, but I believe it is never too late to start.

  12. I believe that all environmental efforts have their place. Some people will be motivated by the "in your face" approach ... others need gentler encouragement to make changes. It's the same with companies ... and if you can elicit change from within then great ... it makes them look better if they aren't forced, by outside pressure, to make positive change! While I don't think we've failed and I feel hopeful that there is some improvement in our collective actions, I'm just not sure if we've gotten with the program soon enough to save ourselves. But still ... I have hope!